I spent much of last week up in Edinburgh at the Open Edge conference on open source software in libraries — I wrote about this over on my employer’s blog; it was a useful trip, both fun and productive.
But today I want to tell you about the journey home. Well, a small part of the journey home — the part that took place while I was waiting at Bristol Temple Meads railway station for the train that would take me back to Gloucester. In fact, I want to talk about the Crunchie that I bought there.
[WARNING: this blog entry is extremely boring.]
I didn’t want to buy a Crunchie, you understand: all I wanted was to spend the forty-minute wait for my train indoors rather than on a freezing cold platform. But there’s no waiting room on Platform 9: the only indoor space is the Pumpkin Cafe, and there is a big sign on the door saying that the indoor space is ONLY FOR CUSTOMERS and that A PURCHASE IS MANDATORY. So I bought a Crunchie as my sitting-indoors-in-the-warm licence. It cost 75p, which is pretty outrageous, but then the Pumpkin Cafe has a monopoly on Platform 9 at Bristol Temple Meads, so what are you going to do?
So I handed over my pound coin, and as the Bored Bloke Behind The Counter (hereafter, the BBBTC) handed me my 25p change, I noticed a prominent sign on the cash register saying IF WE DON’T GIVE YOU A RECIEPT, YOUR ORDER IS FREE. And sure as eggs is eggs (aching men’s feet), the BBBTC hadn’t given me a receipt. “Ho, stout yeoman!”, I hailed him (I may be paraphrasing a little), “I believe my order is free. I’ll have my 75p back now, please.”
I bet if you’d been in my position, you’d have expected the BBBTC to give you 75p. You would, right? That’s what I expected. But no: he gave me (belatedly) the receipt:
And told me I had to write to the address on a card that he told me to pick up from a dispenser over at the side:
And that they would send me my money.
I admit to my shame that at this point, I become sarcastic. “How?”, I asked, “By Magic Turtle?” (I know that doesn’t make much sense, but it was the best I could come up with in a high-pressure situation.)
So here I am in a situation where I have to write to someone to get them to refund my 75p. And even if they do, then presumably the refund will come in the form of a cheque, which I will then have to send to my bank (cost: 41p plus whatever the envelope costs), which involves filling in forms, a trip to the postbox, etc. So I will recover, at best, 34p.
I’d be crazy to jump through all those hoops just for 34p, right?
Turns out, I’m crazy. It’s a point of principle now. So I went to the website whose address is given on the card. And, whaddaya know, those nice folks at sspfeedback.com say on their site that they want to help!
For anyone who can’t read that tiny text and can’t be bothered to click though — and indeed for indexing engines that have better things to do than OCR every embedded image — here’s what they say:
At SSP, we strive to provide the best customer service across all of our brands, it’s what makes us the Food Travel Experts. [That's a run-on sentence, but let it pass. Also, surely "Food Travel" is the business of moving food from one place to another, not of selling food to travellers?] Whether it’s the perfect latte as you’re running for your meeting [why would you want a latte when you're running?], or a much-needed glass of Chardonnay [why the capital letter? It's not a proper noun], as you relax waiting for your train home, or your 75p back that you spend on a Crunchie that you didn’t even want [the web-site doesn't actually say that last bit, but I think it's implied], we want you to have the best experience.
And it’s signed “Stu” by Stu Kaley, the Expert Service Manager of SSP UK. It’s nice to know that SSP, The Food Travel Experts, want me to have the best experience. So I clicked on the Give Feedback button — it turns out to be one of those buttons that inexplicably opens its destination in a new window, just in case you want to be able to flip back to the old window and see the SSP, The Food Travel Experts home page again — and I filled in their form:
- Where did you visit us? Railway Station
- Which city did you visit? Bristol
- Which brand did you visit? Pumpkin
- Which location did you visit? Bristol Temple Meads Pumpkin 2 (Cafe with seating area)
- Please confirm the date of your visit: 01/02/2011 [It was really 27th January, but the dropdown calendar only allows you to choose dates within the current month.]
- Please confirm the time you entered the store: 17:00
That’s a lot of information. But it was well worth it, because filling it in gained me entry to the inner sanctum that is Page 2 of the feedback form:
- Please provide the name or brief description of the member of staff who served you: I don’t remember at all, beyond that he was male and bored
- Please use the space provided to tell us about your experience: [NOTE: I actually visited on 27 January 2011, but the dropdown calendar only allows me to enter dates in the current month. I am using Firefox 3.6.13 on MacOS X 10.5.8.] I bought a Crunchie for 75p, and was not given a receipt. A notice prominently displayed at the point sale said that if no receipt is given, then my order is free, so I asked for my 75p back. The server said that in order to recover my 75p I would have to describe the incident on this web-site, so I am doing so. I would like my 75p, please. Contact me on email@example.com to arrange details.
That all seems pretty clear to me. So on to the wonder that is Page 3:
Onward to the page where I fill in my contact details (here shown in the un-filled form for privacy’s sake, though heaven knows it’s a meaningless enough gesture.)
And suddenly, just like that, I was done!
Well now! We shall see! Will I get my 75p back? Stay tuned for the next not-particularly-exciting installment!
And that, I am afraid, is where matters stand. I can’t yet tell you the ending of this story. And now I feel a bit ashamed about having written up such a boring incident in such detail. By strange coincidence, over on my other blog, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, which is co-written with a couple of friends, Matt Wedel has just posted one of the best things I’ve ever read on any blog: How to find problems to work on. I strongly encourage you to go and read that brilliantly insightful piece, if only as an antidote to the utter tedium of the article you’ve just ploughed through. Go on, you deserve it.